Friday, December 18, 2015

My 10 Favourite Moments from Star Wars #51-52

With that new Star Wars thing happening, I've consciously blogged a little about the franchise - about how I first saw the prequels and a six-part series about Roy Thomas & Jaxxon in the Marvel Star Wars comics (part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6).

One more blog post idea came to me: why not list my 10 favourite moments from the Marvel Star Wars comic? The problem was, so many of those moments came from the two-part "Tarkin" story in issues #51-52, as written by David Michelinie and drawn by Walter Simonson. The obvious solution? My Top 10 Favourite Moments from Star Wars #51-52!

#1: A Walk to the Airlock

David Michelinie took over Marvel's Star Wars from Archie Goodwin shortly after The Empire Strikes Back. He seemed eager to incorporate ideas from that film into the Marvel series and among these was the constant abuse Darth Vader inflicted on his Imperial officers. In this sequence, a disappointed Vader orders his subordinate to take a walk - out the nearest airlock. It's darkly humourous, as the sequences in Empire had been.

#2: Lando the Loathed

One of Michelinie's challenges would be adding Lando Calrissian to the series. Michelinie didn't get to write Han Solo and was instead stuck with the guy who betrayed him - a betrayal felt by many of the children who watched the film to judge from anecdotes shared by Lando's actor (Billy Dee Williams). Michelinie put that into play in the series: Lando would have to earn the trust of the other characters and that was one of the subplots in #51-52.

#3: Leia Doesn't Know Her Own Strength

In a very amusing scene, Luke and Leia need to obtain a set of uniforms to impersonate contractors toiling on the new Imperial weapon. Leia attempts the old trope of trying to seduce a man, only to find it backfire somewhat when the man is way too willing. Amusing moments and fun dialogue are peppered throughout these two issues and help make it feel like a story set in the same universe as the films - which, in case you've forgotten, have a lot of pretty funny moments, many of them derived from toying with familiar tropes.

#4: The Tarkin Superweapon

Walter Simonson went all-out with his design for the Tarkin weapon, a duplicate of the Death Star's superlaser weapon. It's not very Star Wars-ish in design, looking more like something which might bedevil some anime heroes, but it's an instantly impressive visual. And, as has been circulated many times, originally Michelinie meant for it to be a 2nd Death Star but was prevented by LucasFilm.

#5: The Conspiracy to Kill Darth Vader

Given the above noted sequences of Vader killing his subordinates, the idea of a conspiracy within the officers' ranks to have him killed makes perfect sense. It's not only a great cliffhanger reveal for issue #51, it provides great complications in #52 as the attempts to kill Vader inadvertently aid the Rebels.

#6: Stormtrooper Tossing

In another fun scene, Chewbacca has to shut down a shield generator on the Tarkin, much as Obi-Wan Kenobi did in the first film. Of course, this is Chewie we're talking about - he's not big on subtlety. Hence, he lobs a Stormtrooper at the generator to smash it up!

#7: Vader Walks on Air

The officers' best effort at killing Vader occurs when they blow open an airlock hatch, blasting Vader into space. And then... Vader calmly walks back inside. And he knows exactly what just happened. You come at the king, you best not miss.

#8: Lando the Loquacious

Micheline happened upon a great idea for how to make Lando work in the series ensemble without simply being a clone of Han Solo. Lando's best-identified skill under Michelinie is his love for subterfuge. Unlike Han (who audibly noted his displeasure for "sneaking around" once), Lando enjoys matching wits, bluffing and lying to his enemies. As the series would progress, Michelinie's eventual replacement Jo Duffy would make Lando's sneaky tactics even more fun and useful to the Rebels' plans.

#9: Bluffing the Stormtroopers

In the original Star Wars, the escaping Rebels had to reach their ship despite it being surrounded by guards; thankfully, a Jedi duel broke out to distract the Stormtroopers. This time, they have to create their own diversion and Luke manufactures one by hurling a makeshift grenade. Except, it's not a grenade - it's two comlinks tied together, as one of the Stormtroopers subsequently discovers. Easily the funniest moment in the two-parter.

#10: Instant Asteroid Field - Just Add Water!

Finally, as in Star Wars we have Darth Vader in his TIE Fighter and a clash with the Millennium Falcon. This time, it's the Falcon being pursued, but Luke comes up with an extremely clever trick: dump the ship's water supply! The water freezes into giant clusters of ice and appear too quickly for Vader to dodge. He has time to remark, "Well done, young Skywalker!" before the ice smashes his craft out of the pursuit.

You can buy issue #51 from Comixology right here and issue #52 here.

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